Fat shaming: is a woman in-charge of her own body or society’s concept of it?
By Features Editor, Meghna Pant
There I was at Breach Candy Hospital visiting a friend who had delivered twins. I asked her to pose with her babies for a photo but she refused because – in her own words – she had turned into “an overweight, out-of-shape slob.” She was, at worst, a kilo or two more than her pre-pregnancy weight. Yet, she negated the joy of being a new mother, of giving life, by focusing on something as superfluous as weight.
But this is not a new thing in India, is it? Or around the world? These feelings are common; we hear them every single day in elevators, salons, movie halls and gyms. New mothers saying ‘does-this-baby-make-me-look-fat?’ Fitternity women whose lives revolve around wheatgrass shots, personal trainers, zero carbs and liposuction.
We frame the narrative of our life around our weight. Instead of counting our blessings, we count our calories. We centre our lives on dimpled thighs and love handles, instead of health and happiness.
And why wouldn’t we feel bad about ourselves when unrealistic and culturally promoted ideals of thinness and beauty are shoved in our faces, almost everyday? The world has things everywhere that make us feel ashamed of how we look.
We’ve all been subject to it. Especially on India where people have no qualms monitoring your weight for you. No one is spared; not even celebrated beauties like Aishwarya Rai. Every time I put on a kilo someone will comment with a raised eyebrow, “Put on weight, huh?” Initially, I internalised my hurt and, very often, even apologised for it, “Yeah, everyone has fat; I just have more of it.” But then I decided that my body is my problem, the way I choose to look is my decision. No one else can define it for me. So now if someone comments about my body, I give it right back: “At least I can change my weight, what will you do about your face?” That usually shuts up the ‘fat bully’.
It’s time that as a society we put an end to fat shaming. As women, we should stop encouraging ‘fat talk’, stop normalising body shaming and stop creating more fat bullies.
Till recently Facebook had an emoticon labeled ‘feeling fat’. We know that Facebook encourages people to present the best version of themselves in the online world, placing an extreme focus on the external, instead of the internal, and inadvertently perpetuating body image issues. Fortunately, Facebook dropped this emoticon after being pressurised by Change.Org’s petition which received 16,000 signatures. After all, fat is not a feeling.
Our movies too – finally! – are glorifying the fat woman. Dum Laga Ke Haisha, delightful only in that it showed a Bollywood heroine, Bhumi Pednekar, as an overweight housewife who didn’t believe that anything was outside her reach because she wasn’t the ‘ideal’ form of beauty.
And there it is, as simple as that. If we embrace ourselves for who we are instead of how we look, we perpetuate a healthy change in society’s mindset and in our own. And isn’t that always the best way to go?
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